State legislature back to criminal justice overhaul discussions

jail imageThe Michigan legislature is considering more changes to the state criminal justice and corrections system.

Conservatives and liberals alike agree on getting smarter, not tougher, on crime. That’s according to advocates from victims’ rights groups and conservative criminal justice groups who testified at a state hearing Tuesday.

Republican Representative Klint Kesto is trying to get the state to adopt the new motto of “Smart on crime, soft on our taxpayers,” instead of the old “Tough on crime” adage. He says criminal justice changes can reduce recidivism and lower the overall incarceration rate, which increases public safety and saves tax payers money.

“It’s not about being tough on crime,” he said. “Let’s address it before the crime happens perhaps, when there are minor crimes.”

Lenore Anderson is with the Alliance for Safety and Justice. She flew in from California to testify at the committee hearing. She said many victims of violent and non-violent crimes want to see more rehabilitation instead of straight punishment.

“We’ve been delighted to see this state take seriously alternative ways to advance public safety without wasting tax dollars,” she said.

Governor Rick Snyder recently signed an 18-bill package aimed at overhauling the state’s criminal justice system.

But some advocates want the state to go further. The conservative and influential Koch Brothers are calling for things like increasing specialty courts and lowering the incarceration rate.

Mark Holden senior vice president and general counsel for Koch Industries.

“The phrases tough on crime and soft on crime are largely meaningless,” he said. “We need to be smart on crime and soft on taxpayers through data driven and evidence based solutions and not based on fear and emotion.”